More than 100 area high school students watched anxiously when their model-scale bridges built from Popsicle sticks either buckled or withstood the pressure of more than 1,000 pounds at the 18th annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition at California State University, Long Beach last Friday.
"We were a little nervous," said Garden Grove High School student Henry Quach, after he and his two teammates watched their bridge sustain the force of 1,125 pounds of pressure. "We did a lot of tests beforehand to make sure."
The event, hosted by The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at CSULB and sponsored by the Younger Member Forums of ASCE from the Los Angeles and Orange County branches, invited high school students from 43 Southern California schools who have an interest in civil engineering.
"The point of this competition is to provide a forum for the students to explore and have fun with applied science," said Scarlet Ng, who is the chair of the event and professional engineer with the Orange County Branch of ASCE. "Engineering is a very important profession - we are responsible for the infrastructure of society. We have to build an interest in applied sciences."
Prior to the event, the students were given a handbook of rules, such as the dimensions for the bridge, weight, materials and other technical specifications.
The winning team of the day, whose bridge sustains the most weight without buckling, wins a $1,000 scholarship to split amongst the team.
The day began for the students with a presentation of their bridge and its specifications to other entrants and engineering professionals, before testing their bridge for its design and muscle.
"It is kind of nerve-racking for the students," Ng added. "The students also had to write a paper on their bridge, which allows them to work on their writing skills too."
To mix up the day, the students participated in an improvisational event, where they had to think quickly to devise a catapult to launch marshmallows at least 12 feet in the air.
Professional engineers also spoke to the students and were able to interact with members of the Orange County and LA ASCE braches, along with CSULB students.
For Quach and the rest of his team from Garden Grove, the event proved to be a success. The high school junior said that he is looking forward to pursing a career in engineering.
"We are definitely having fun here today," he said.